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Don Berg Interview

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[Bob Arnold just before his death]

This interview was conducted in March and June 1997 by myself, Andy Bellatti, and Liam O'Sullivan via email with Phantasmagoria 2 actor Don "Bob Arnold" Berg. Please note that this interview contains some spoilers.

Andy: What are some of your earlier acting projects?

Don: I have done several television commercials, one film (Dogfight - starring the late River Phoenix and Lili Taylor), and a lot of corporate training videos and local theatre.

Liam: What role did you play in Dogfight?

Don: I had a very small part in Dogfight. I played a marine. Almost all of my stuff was cut out and what remains is just a brief glimpse of me in a fight scene. During the filming of that movie, one of the other actors kept blowing his lines and we had to shoot the scene over and over and over again. The scene required that he throw an icecream cone over his shoulder and, take after take after take, he kept hitting me with the damned thing. After every take, I had to be towelled down to get all of the chocolate icecream off my costume. I also had to assist with some of the costuming. In another one of my "lives" I am a United States Naval Reserve Officer. The costumers kept getting some of the uniforms wrong, so I ended up giving them advice and helping them. I had to tie the neckerchief another actor wore because the costumers couldn't tie a proper US Navy knot.

Andy: Who would have thought that a cd-rom game would bring you so much fame?

Don: I don't know if "fame" is the word - but knowing that we've been banned in Singapore does add a certain "cache" to my resume.

Andy: How did you learn about Phantasmagoria 2?

Don: Like most people in the film game, I am a professional actor and have an agent. I was told that Sierra auditioned actors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and here in Seattle where talent is rated as being amongst the best.

[Bob Arnold]

Andy: What were the casting staff looking for in an actor who wanted to play the role of Bob ?

Don: It was my impression that Sierra wanted someone that everyone could identify with (as far as everybody knows an office "asshole" - someone that nobody can stand to work with), but I think they also didn't want Bob portrayed as a cartoon-like, one dimensional figure. At least that is what I tell myself anyway.

Andy: How will you remember your audition for the role of Bob Arnold?

Don: I will always remember my audition for Bob because as soon as I read the script I knew that I was meant to "be" Bob Arnold. I believe, though, that the lines that were used in my audition were amongst those that were cut from the final script.

Andy: Which of your scenes were cut from the script?

Don: I did see the whole script before I was called to the set for my first shooting day. By then, all of the decisions had been made about my character.

Anthony: What can you remember about the actions your character was originally intended to do but you were never called upon to perform?

Don: By the time I saw the complete script, the cuts had already been made. I am, however, a fan of and friend of Lorelei Shannon and she has assured me that my part was indeed intended to be much longer and much more involved. It is my impression that Bob was originally intended to interact more directly with other cast members. I could be wrong, but I believe (for example) that Bob was supposed to have some "ass-kissing" scenes with his and Curtis's bosses.

Andy: When you read the script, what did you think of it?

Don: I was only able to see "sides" (i.e the little portions of the script in which my dialogue appeared) before shooting of the film actually began. Once I read the script, I was pretty amazed that one person could come up with all the fantastic stuff. Of course, once I met Lorelei, I knew. I am a big fan of hers. I am in awe of her talent and imagination.

Andy: Did you have the opportunity to offer suggestions about your character and/or lines?

Don: When I am on the set, I tend to be friendly but professional. I never "offer" suggestions unless they are solicited. For example, consider the scene in which I rise up and crawl after Curtis with the X-Acto knife in my hand and say, "Come a little closer Ratboy. You've got something in your eye." Originally the line was different. Neither Andy Hoyos (the director), Lorelei, nor I liked it. At Andy's suggestion, and with Lorelei's concurrence, we worked together to change it. Simple and professional.

Anthony: Why do you think Bob is so antagonistic towards Curtis?

Don: Jealousy and possibly latent homosexual feelings toward Curtis. Bob is like someone that each of us knows: fat, lazy, homely, self-centered and yet (on the surface) very sure of himself. In reality however, he is extremely insecure and feels that he just isn't as good as everybody else. He compensates for these feelings by acting like he knows everything. In reality, he relies on other people's work and ass-kissing to get along. He is also a horny toad. Bob is the sort of guy that would probably have to buy a "picture bride" from Russia to find anybody that would be willing to marry him. He probably has a huge cache of porno films at home and probably goes to adult movie theaters for fun. He is extremely jealous of Curtis who is tall and handsome, smart, and always getting the girls (after all, Curtis is getting laid right and left now isn't he?).

Andy: Did you feel strange knowing that you were acting for a computer game?

Don: I didn't feel strange to be asked to appear in a game. I felt more a sense of excitement for being a "pioneer". The live-action game is a fairly new genre and (hopefully) one which will offer a whole lot of work to starving young actors like me in the future.

Andy: Are you familiar with cd-rom games or was this your first multimedia experience?

Don: I had very limited experience with multimedia before my Phantasmagoria 2 experience. I am not a gamer, so I wasn't really sure what the final version of the project might actually look like.

Andy: Describe a typical day of filming.

Don: Long, boring, fun. The cast (except for a couple of the LA talent that oozed attitude) and the crew were wonderful to work with. Sandra [Hunter], the Production Coordinator, and Andy Hoyos, the director, were especially good to work with. As to how the day started - the boys on the crew (our crew was an extremely young crew) would sit around eating cereal while the talent were dressed and made-up. Then shooting would begin. The shooting schedule was always in a state of flux. I might reach the set at say, 7:00am, but not actually be required to be in any scenes until the mid afternoon. I was on the set for about ten days in total.

Andy: How were your special effects made?

Don: Well, let me put it this way - in the scene in which I am being murdered there is a shot in which I am under attack and I am shouting and gagging at the same time and you (the viewer) hear and see what looks like me throwing up bile all over myself. That wasn't a special effect, let me tell you! Actors are supposed to suffer for their art, but I've never been so "into" a characterisation that I've blown chunks before. For me the only time a double was used was when my head "explodes" after being hit with a sledge hammer. Otherwise, what you see is really me.

[Zombie Bob with stapled lips]

Anthony: What about Bob's "trademark" stapled lips?

Don: We used industrial sized staples with the "prongs" cut off. Then we took the remaining "bar" and used spirit gum to glue the metal pieces to my face. Theatrical makeup was used to "enhance" the effect for lots of blood and gore. Robert [Standlee] (the special effects guru) was kind enough to wait until after lunch every shooting day before applying that effect so that I could at least eat lunch!

Anthony: What is really happening when we see you in Bob's murder scene?

Don: My character was being attacked by the Hecatomb - crucified and eviscerated with X-Acto knives. In reality, I was basically throwing myself against a backdrop, screaming and yelling and gaging. I am not a "method actor" but I did give it my all. I was actually concerned before we shot the scene that I might have trouble being convincing (this being my first time being killed on film). Once Andy Hoyos yelled "action" though, I went on "auto pilot" and gave (I thought) a rather intense and convincing performance.

Anthony: We never get to see your assailant. Who was acting out that role and was he/she dressed in any special way?

Don: One of the grips (Courtney [Jones] is his name) was dressed in a dark, hooded sweatshirt and gloves.

Anthony: Is it you who lies on the ground during the police investigation as the Hecatomb eats Bob's innards?

Don: Yes, it is me lying on the ground during those scenes. It is also really me in all the scenes involving the body bag. Sometimes we got in such a hurry to finish a shot and then move on that they would forget about me and leave me in the bag and I'd have to yell to get them to let me out. We used a real body bag and gosh, for some odd reason - there just aren't any zippers on the inside!

Don Berg's gory scenes

Anthony: What was it like doing the "fidgeting scenes" such as just sitting at your desk?

Don: Boring! I think we shot all the fidgets in two days. Basically all the actor does is sit (or stand) in place while the FX computer wizard imposes a computer image over you and the blue screen. Then the actor "fidgets" for a few seconds to fill in the "action".

Andy: Do you remember any funny tidbits that happened during the shooting of the game?

Don: Do you mean "funny" like:
- Me lying in a pool of gore covered with blood and concrete dust and Sandra the Production Coordinator is shouting out things like: "Don, do you need some water? Don, do you need a pillow for your head?"
- Some members of the crew playing Nerfball between takes?
- How my "big special effect" (my chest being cut open blood spraying all over the place) didn't work?
- Lorelei bringing in real autopsy pictures for everybody to look at?
- The crew being so intent on finishing a scene that after the Director yelled "Cut", they started moving the cameras, etc. and forgot to let me out of the body bag I was lying in that was zipped completely closed?
....Do you mean funny stuff like that?

Andy: Are there any further items of insider trivia you would like to share with people?

Don: Yes. Did you know that Kathy Ireland and Bernie Koppel (both of Love Boat fame) auditioned for the Phantasmagoria 2 project?

Anthony: Have you played Phantasmagoria 2 yet? If so, how do you feel when you interact with yourself in the game?

Don: I have only played the game once (on New Year's Eve at Lorelei's house). Like any actor, I think it is difficult to watch one's self in action. I have to admit, I am not always happy when I see my performances on screen, but in Phantasmagoria 2 I thought I did a good job.

Andy: Would you like to do something like Phantasmagoria 2 again?

Don: If I could work with a quality group of people (Lorelei, Andy, Sandra), you bet your buttons I'd love to do something like Phantasmagoria 2 again. Why, do you know someone who is looking to cast a cd-rom (hahaha...actors - always looking for work!)? I keep hoping that Phantasmagoria 3 will be, "The Revenge of Bob"!

If you liked this interview, please read the following interviews with other Phantasmagoria 2 cast and crew members

Wes Plate - Editor

Lorelei Shannon - Designer

Tim Weiss - Programmer

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